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Hints as you prepare to play harp in public

  • Patricia
    Patricia Jaeger

    Just a few ideas that may help as the date grows nearer for that wedding or other date where you need extra practice. I hope others will post some also.

    If  you are playing the Processional for the entrance of the bride, practice with a metronome so she can take even steps, with dignity, on this important day. For instance, if she can let you know how many steps it will take down the aisle until she stands beside her waiting groom, it is such a help to the musician. There are so many variations in Paclelbel's Canon, as an example, you probably will not need them all. At four steps to a measure (with metronome set at 50 per quarter-note beat, ) you may need only 5 variations. The last one is important to bring the procession to a close.

    Try to memorize everything. On your music stand might be a list or the repertoire you are ready to play, typed in large font like 16 or 18, with the key of each one beside it. Mix up the keys, please, so 4 selections in the key of C right after each other is not going to happen!

    Your eye movements on the harp strings matter! Impossible to check both hands at once, so in spots where there is contrary motion or large leaps, practice those more so one hand will not need you for an instant, while you put the other one in place. Slowly at first is a good rule.

    Take small breaks every 15 minutes in practicing but those breaks should not be long or the skills you have just embedded into your mind-hands-eyes may not endure very well. In the break, can you do small stretches of your body, or have some hot cocoa, or recite a children's poem you learned long ago that has structure and a rhyme, similar to good music; or walk up and down (especially if the 'weather outside is frightful',) or look at nature outside your window enjoying the message of green trees, flowers, birds etc. that give you reassurance it will all be there waiting for you when your performance is finished and you are safely home.

    replies to "Hints as you prepare to play harp in public"
    • Jessica
      Jessica A

      Shouldn't this be aimed at students or amateurs?  Seems like all harpists are different.  Professional harpists have figured out their own ways of preparing and playing weddings.  What works for one harpist might not work for someone else.  I memorize, but some people don't and some people can't.  Different brides might choose different marches and music for their weddings, so a formula probably won't work. Also, the bride will probably be pretty nervous on that day and just might not be thinking about counting steps.  It's our job to stay with her, not hers to stay with us.  It's not about the harp, it's about her special day.  Go with the flow.

    • Diana
      Diana Lincoln

      I really appreciate Patricia's thoughts and suggestions. She made a point saying she hopes other will also post ideas. I hope the next few posts will be offered in a positive way...I'll leave my remarks at that.

      Diana L.

    • Sylvia
      Sylvia Clark

      I also mix up the keys and play most of my repertoire from memory because it's easier for me that way, and I absolutely love metronomes.  (I hated them when I was young and only learned to appreciate them later.) 

      I'm going to discuss dealing with visibility, which may not be a problem for other harpists, but here goes.  I find out how many bridesmaids, flower girls, ring bearers, pillow bearers or whatever they're having will be coming in so I can be sure they are all in the front before the bride walks.  The one thing I ask the bride to do is to wait until EVERYONE else is down in front before she enters so she'll come in on the right music.  Even a nervous bride can understand THAT.  Once in a while, the bride gets rushed by photographers or stops for a Momma hug before she reaches the altar, so I stretch whatever march I'm using if something unexpected happens.

      My church weddings are almost all Catholic, and everyone stands up when the bridesmaids enter and often even when the padrinos enter (they come in before the bridesmaids).  That usually makes it downright impossible for me to see if the bride is ready to start her march, so I watch for the end of the procession. Sometimes somebody stalls, like a reluctant flower girl or a tiny ring bearer who has no clue what he's even doing.  There can be a snag, like sometimes the cast of characters has changed at the last minute ...like deleting a flower girl...and I'm looking for the other one...then it's by guess and by gosh.  I agree with going with the flow because flexibility is important.

      Someone will probably write in to suggest having a lookout to tell me.  Once in a while there is one, but  they aren't dependable, and trust me on this, NEVER depend on a groomsman.  (sorry, fellas)